How and when will 3D printing change the shoe industry?

how-when-will-3d-printing-change-the-footwear-industry-1With designer Iris van Herpen unveiling these extraordinary 3D printed shoes on the catwalk at her Paris Couture show last week, it had us questioning what 3D printing means for the future of the footwear.

A recent Hypebeast article notes printing has been making a lot of noise lately, for reasons both good and bad, and the technology is growing fast with personal 3D printing systems becoming widely available and more affordable.

This new technology has allowed regular people to create almost anything and it hasn’t been lost on big name companies. Within the footwear industry, companies like New Balance and Nike have already put to market shoes that incorporate 3D printed elements and adidas and Nike have have been using the tech to prototype shoes at speeds unheard of several years ago.

At this point, it seems inevitable that 3D printing will change the way shoes are made, but how will it do so and when?

With 3D printing still in its relative infancy, the technology is still a ways off from being able to make shoe components that are both durable and cost-effective. New Balance’s first 3D printed running spikes were created using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a time-intensive and cost-prohibitive process.

The spikes in question were produced for New Balance’s elite athletes for in-competition use, meaning that only a few examples were produced and used. It’s the same story with the Nike Vapor Laser Talon cleat. Produced using the same SLS technique as New Balance, the Vapor Laser Talon was developed for just a small number of athletes to use at the NFL combine’s 40-yard dash.

It’s a good start, but the above examples utilized 3D printing strictly for the rigid parts of the shoe, namely the spike plate. For footwear companies, the next step is developing semi-rigid or soft components.

Read more of this article at Hypebeast.com


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